Ars Technica is running the first part of a series called Understanding the Microprocessor. Although it may sound a bit esoteric for less-technical readers, the article is well-written and does a nice job of easing into the details.
…the purpose of computers isn’t to just “compute” in the abstract, but to produce usable results from a given data set. In other words, what matters in computing applications is not that you did some math, but that you started with a body of numbers, applied a sequence of operations to it, and got a list of results. Those results could, again, represent pixel values for a rendered scene or an environmental snapshot in a weather simulation. Indeed, the idea that a computer is a device that transforms one set of numbers into another should be intuitively obvious to anyone who’s ever used a Photoshop filter.
I’m a firm believer in the benefits of understanding your tools from both a Understanding the Microsoprocessor: Part 1